How does the new 3Dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI compare to the Voodoo3 and RAGE 128 Pro?  
First posted 7/26/2000
This is a PREVIEW by Rob-Art Morgan
(FULL REVIEW will follow once final product ships)

First, the 16 bit 3D tests...

I was most anxious to see how the Voodoo5 compared to the Voodoo3. Since the Voodoo3 can't run Quake III or Unreal Tournament in 32 bit, I ran the first set of 3D tests at 16 bit:

Now I know what you're thinking. "The Voodoo5 costs 3 times as much as a Voodoo3 and doesn't go any faster????!!!!!" But before you panic, read the CONCLUSIONS section.  

Next, the 32 bit 3D tests...

In case you are wondering, FSAA stands for "Full Scene Anti-Aliasing." It's an awesome feature that removes the jaggies no matter what resolution you are running.
Even with the FSAA turned on, the Voodoo5 matched frames with the RAGE board.


Last, 2D Scroll tests...





THIS IS A PREVIEW. I feel the need to say that AGAIN because the board is not shipping yet. There are a few tweaks needed in the drivers and stuff like that there. Now, let's get busy.

FRAME RATES DON'T FALL OFF. At first I was shocked at the lower than expected frame rates in the 3D tests. However, as I increased the resolution and texture details, the frame rate dropped off much less than the Voodoo3 or the RAGE 128 Pro. The graph below shows how there's very little drop in frame rate with the Voodoo5 (even at 32 bits) as the screen resolution goes up. The RAGE 128 Pro takes a dive.

(NOTE: Final release of the drivers will have higher frame rates, 3Dfx assures me. Hope so.)

SAY GOOD-BYE TO JAGGIES! You know what Adobe Type Manager does for fonts? That's what Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) does for 3D games but only in hardware. When you turn on this feature, it gets rid of the jaggies even at low resolutions. This was especially apparent in Unreal Tournament. There's a little performance penalty but it allows you to run at lower resolutions without a loss in quality. A gamer wants two things: no hesitation and no jaggies, in that order. With the Voodoo5, you can have the best of both. In fact, the Voodoo5 screen shots looked better at 800 x 600 x 16 bit with FSAA turned ON than the RAGE 128 Pro looked at 1024 x 768 x 32 bit. And at those settings, the Voodoo5 ran almost 3 times faster than the RAGE card.

Can you tell the difference?
These two samples are screen dumps from Unreal Tournament at 640 x 480 with lowest quality settings. Note how the jaggies are smoothed on the rectangles.

NOT THE NEW 2D KING. As a 2D board, it was good but not great, at least in my two scrolling tests. To me, Formac's ProFormance3 is still the "King of 2D."

VGA & DVI. The Voodoo5 Mac version comes with a Digital Video Interface (DVI) just like the RAGE 128 Pro that ships from Apple. That's useful if you want to use it with one of Apple's Digital Flat Panel displays. My dream machine would have two Cinema displays so that's good to know.

NO AGP? ONLY PCI? WAAA! The only thing that made me weep was that the Mac version of the Voodoo5 is currently only available in PCI. I grant you that in past tests, I saw only a 10 percent advantage of AGP over PCI, but when you are a speed freak, every frame counts. At the NY Mac Expo, 3Dfx was using the AGP version on some demo machines, but they believe it's not feasible to market an AGP version right now. For one thing, the AGP slot is already filled in most AGP Macs. Who wants to pay $300 for a board to fill a slot that's already filled? And what do you do with the RAGE 128 Pro you pulled out? (Mail it to Steve Jobs, that's what.)

I would love to see Apple offer the Voodoo5 AGP as an option on their "Build To Order" section of the online Apple Store. Then the world would be a better place for you and me. (Pause and hold your breath.............)

Meanwhile, in my own system, I have two displays running off of two boards:
the one Apple made me buy and the one I really wanted.



Related Reviews

My favorite Windows PC site is Sharkey Extreme. Today, he posted a comparison between the Mac version and PC version of the Voodoo5 5500. The game graphs start on page 3. He also did a comparison on a Windows PC between the Radeon, Voodoo5, and GeForce2. Quake III graphs start on page 7.

At least a dozen sites should have reviews in the near future. Start by visiting Accelerate Your Mac for a most excellent, thorough review of the Voodoo5 for the Mac. (Jump to page 4 for the Game graphs.)

The Game graphs start on Page 5 of Inside Mac Games' "preview." See also MacGamers Ledge preview.

Check also at MacObserver, MacWeek, MacGamer, MacGameNews, Mac Gamers Ledge, and MacGaming. MacAddict, MacWorld, MacWire (Japan).

HERE ARE SOME COMMENTS BY BRYAN SPEECE OF 3DFX that were posted on a discussion group regarding why the Macintosh frame rates are not as high as some Windows PC tests.

Stay tuned for more test results from Bare Feats using the Voodoo5 5500 PCI in a Yikes G4/400 66MHz PCI slot, a Yosemite G3/450 with 66MHz PCI slot, a Beige DT and a Power Mac 9600. I'll be testing in 66MHz PCI slots as well as 33MHz PCI slots. I hope to have a RADEON board from ATI in the near future to compare to the Voodoo5. I'll being trying to add more 3D tests, too.


Where to Buy

You can buy the Voodoo5 direct from 3Dfx's Online Store ( for $329. Or check their "Where To Buy" page for over 20 bargain sources.

Check CNET for lowest prices. As of this writing Onvia has the best price for the Voodoo5 at $296.42 including shipping.

MacGurus will be carrying the Voodoo5. They also have the Formac ProFormance3 and the ATI RAGE 128 line.

Small Dog Electronics has the ATI RAGE 128 Pro and other ATI boards.

See also Other World Computing (OWC). They will be carrying the Voodoo5 but if you have an iMac A or B, they carry the only Voodoo board for the iMac: iWizard Voodoo2. Also, they are running a special on the ProFormance3 Plus.


Test Configurations & Procedures


3Dfx Voodoo5 5500 with dual VSA-100 processors

3Dfx Voodoo3 3000 PCI and AGP

ATI Technologies RAGE 128 Pro AGP (standard on G4 Power Macs--soon to be replaced by a Radeon---which I will test when I have one in my hot little hands.)

Formac ProFormance3 Plus

TEST MACHINE: G4/400 Sawtooth with 256MB of RAM and Mac OS 9.04
(I know, I know, when am I going to test the Yikes, Yosemite, Beige and others? All in good time.)


Id Software's Quake III Arena (Latest DEMO version) options were set to:
VIDEO MODE: 800 or 1024 or 1280
COLOR DEPTH: 16 or 32
TEST RUN: When the main screen appears, I press "~" and enter "timedemo 1" (return) and "~" once more. Then I click on DEMOS and run Demo1. Once it finishes and returns to the main screen, I press "~" once more to get the frames per second readout.

Unreal Tournament (Commercial version 413) settings were at the highest quality. The only changes between runs were screen resolution and bit depth. TEST RUN: TimeDemo statistics were turned on. Then I return to the server intro sequence. Rather than wait through the whole demo sequence, I note the average frame rate coming out of the tunnel.

Adobe Photoshop is used to test 2D scrolling by zooming in at 400% on a 27MB document. I scroll from top to bottom by holding down the mouse pointer on the down scroll arrow. Using a stopwatch, I time it to the nearest tenth of a second. (Photoshop's Application Size was set to 135MB to avoid any disk activity during the scrolling.)

Corel WordPerfect 3.5 is used to test 2D scrolling by opening a 120 page document and scrolling from top to bottom holding down the mouse pointer on the down scroll arrow. Using a stopwatch, I time it to the nearest tenth of a second. (Font Smoothing was turned OFF in Control Panels: Appearances: Fonts. If you leave it on, it DOUBLES the time it takes to scroll!!!)



... 3Dfx for letting me be one of the first to test the Voodoo5 and for supporting the beta drivers for the Voodoo3 for the many months leading up to this.

... ID software for posting a DEMO version of Quake III Arena.

... MacSoft for the review copy of Unreal Tournament. (A DEMO version is available but it doesn't have a repeatable sequence for frame rate testing.)



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